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Federal Grand Jury Indicts Accused NSA Leaker Reality Winner

Reality Winner, a 25-year-old National Security Agency contractor and an Air Force veteran, was being held in Lincoln County, Ga.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury has indicted a 25-year-old National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking classified material to a news outlet. Reality Winner of Augusta, Ga., is scheduled to appear in court this afternoon.

Winner's lawyer, Titus Nichols, told NPR's Martin Kaste on Wednesday that his client plans to plead not guilty to the one count of "willful retention and transmission of national defense information." In legal documents, an FBI agent stated that Winner had admitted to printing the classified information and mailing it to an online news outlet.

That news outlet is widely believed to be The Intercept, which published a report Monday detailing an apparent NSA document that said Russian military intelligence attempted to hack a U.S. company that provides election software.

Court documents do not explicitly name the site; however, two national security officials have told NPR that the cases are connected.

Citing court documents, Martin describes how investigators zeroed in on Winner:

"In the government's criminal complaint against Winner, it says it was able to track her down as the leaker because The Intercept showed government officials a copy of the leaked document, which showed signs of having been folded. That led investigators to think the document had been printed out. They say ... that Winner had been in email contact with a news outlet, presumed to be The Intercept."

The Intercept stated that it has "no knowledge of the identity of the person who provided us with the document" and stresses that the allegations against Winner are unproven.

Winner's lawyer told Martin that during Thursday's hearing, he planned to request that she be released on bond pending trial. She was arrested at her home in Augusta on Saturday.

Winner's stepfather, Gary Davis, told The Associated Press that she is "not a flight risk." He added: "Everyone in America knows what she looks like at this point. She's never run away from anything in her life. She's not a violent person. She has no record. There's no reason to hold her."

The indictment alleges that Winner, a former Air Force linguist, leaked the confidential information in May 2017 while employed at private contractor Pluribus International.

If convicted, Winner faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000, according to court documents.

She is the first person to be criminally charged with leaking classified information under the Trump administration, which has vowed to crack down on leaks.

Winner's mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told the AP that she fears "they're going to try to make an example out of her because of the political climate right now."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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